Friday, March 27, 2009

Some Final Frakkin' Thoughts on the Battlestar Finale

I've been meaning to write this for the better part of a week now-surely you all know that Battlestar Galactica ended last friday, right? Well, the 2-hour finale sat on my dvr for almost a week before I got around to watching it. It wasn't a chore; that's not why it sat like so many unwatched episodes of Dollhouse clogging my Tivo's brain. No, I just found it hard to watch the end of one of my favorite series-fearful of the inevitable disappointment.

Well, I've watched it now and have given it the proper time to sit in my head. I think I finally know where I stand. Now, I know a shocking number of people who haven't watched this show yet (certain other unnamed editors of this very site for instance... yes I know, a travesty). As quintessential nerd viewing, you people need to get on board. But, for their benefit, I warn you now: SPOILERS ABOUND. Don't click the jump if you plan on watching the series. Also for their benefit, a brief and vague summation of my feelings about the ending: It left me happy, satisfied, and thoroughly unimpressed... an absolute shame for one of the most challenging and risk-taking series on tv.

For a series that is founded on truly biting social allegory, the ending was shockingly happy. In that one regard, it was a bit refreshing I guess. No one you cared about died (other than the president, whose cancer already made that obvious) and we got to end smiling about all our favorite characters leaving happy. It filled my inner fanboy with glassy-eyed happiness. However, so would a movie about Boba Fett fighting Batman over a gold-bikini-clad Leia. Obviously some desires shouldn't be fulfilled.

As happy as the finale sorta made me, it left me completely unimpressed and surprised at the sheer lack of risks they took. Over the past few years, BSG has boldly tread where very few shows dared; disguised in little more than a thin Sci-Fi veneer. Evil, proselytizing, mono-theistic robots? Sure! Overt analogy to the occupation of Iraq with genocidal cylons standing in for the Americans and the sympathetic humans acting as suicide bombing "insurgents"? Why Not! A torture scene in which the victim begins to derive sexual pleasure from his torment! Hells Yeah! Apart from the lack of lady nipples and the word "fuck" (neatly replaced by "frak"), you'd be hard pressed to find a show this daring on anything other than HBO. I almost imagine they got away with some of this stuff because the Universal execs signing off on it never looked beyond "robots kill humans in space? GREENLIGHT!"

So for a show so used to taking risks and surprising us at every turn, why a lackluster ending? Did you ever stop to think that maybe it's your fault, hmmm? For a show like this, with mysteries lathered over nagging questions, is there anything that would shock us at this point that hadn't already been endlessly debated in some internet forum? Is there really any ending that could surprise? We've had years and years to think about these things (thanks to the agonizingly long breaks between seasons) so of course every possibility has already been covered. Unless they pulled some Grant Morrisson shit and had Ron Moore come down in the end and say, "I'm your Cylon God," there really wasn't much they could do. The concept of Baltar's vision being an angel has been talked about since season 1-so no surprise there when, whaaa? lo and behold she is an angel! Same goes for Starbuck who, once we established the last cylon wasn't her, had to be an angle type thing as well. Earth was pre-historic Earth all along? They've been talking bout that one since the end of the mini-series ages ago.

But despite all that, it started out well enough... great even! The first hour was exciting and had me at the edge of my seat like no other finale has since Deadwood. In fact, there's a moment where it seems like the entire thing might just end in a glorious orgy of violence and misunderstanding... which would actually be a pretty appropriate ending for the series. But then they get out of it ok and end up at Earth. No, not the Earth they already established as Earth... but our Earth. Earth 2 I guess (and not the one with the grey haired superman). APPARENTLY, as hinted above, the whole series took place 150,000 years in the past, and the survivors of the series turn out to be our ancestors on Earth. Cute if a) it hadn't already been a standing theory online for 4 seasons or b) they hadn't decided to use All Along the Watchtower.

Here's a serious snag. When you use a real world artifact in a series set in some obviously fantastic place far from our plane of existence, well, that should have some meaning. So when the final 5 cylons started mumbling the lyrics to All Along the Watchtower-the internet was abuzz with theories about what this could mean. Turns out, the song is just the FTL coordinates for Earth and apparently was written 150,000 years before Bob Dylan was born... I guess that means he was communing with angels when he wrote it?

And on the topic of Earth's ancestors... one last thing that really bugged me: This show has prided itself on portraying this fantastic story with a sense of grim realism. They rarely forget that the fleet is populated by a bunch of scared people who don't know the inner workings of the story like the main players might. Unlike other SciFi and fantasy stories, there isn't a blind allegiance to the main cast. Instead, these scared masses are a constant thorn in the side of our heroes-forcing them to make terrible decisions and shoot people and all sorts of nasty stuff. So forgive me if I don't really buy their sudden willingness to just ditch their ships and technology to live some primitive tribal life screwing cave men (which, yes, is what they implied happened)

Lessee, any other mysteries? Oh yeah, the shared visions of the President, Athena, and Caprica 6 about Hera? When the visions started, the loyalties of all 3 parties were divided and aimed in separate directions. It was a genuinely scary race to save Hera from these potential future threats posed by their "comrades". Turns out, the kid just got lost in the hallway and auntie 6 and uncle Baltar find her. No biggie. See, by the time the vision actually plays out in reality, all 3 parties are so firmly on the same side that there's absolutely no threat!

So, yeah, it may have been a lackluster ending. Its optimism and cheerfulness may directly contradict the messages of season's past. The clever and layered mysteries may have fizzled into nothing. But I'm gonna be honest with you, it still left me kinda on the giddy side. It certainly appealed to most of my baser geek instincts. You just have to come to grips with the fact that, oftentimes, the question is a whole lot more exciting than the answer itself. A series built on mystery is almost doomed to disappoint in the end. It's a problem that Lost is gonna have to seriously address going into its final season. But either way, sometimes it's nice to get exactly what your inner fanboy wants. It could have used a tad more Boba Fett for my liking though.

1 comment:

T Scott said...

It ended well enough for the characters, but the threat that "this happened before and it will happen again" gives the whole show a relevance that science fiction hasn't even attempted to approach in decades. Knowing that we are part of this cycle is sad and scary as we are seeing it play out again. I think our heroes earned a happy, quiet ending and like you alluded to, there was no way Moore and Company were going to surprise EVERYBODY.